Friday, September 09, 2011

Pens The Lotion Slut emailed me this morning

To point out that it's been a year.

I hadn't even thought about it until I got her email. I wasn't sure what to feel or think this morning, and I'm still not this afternoon. I had to go back and check the blog entries for this time last year to be sure.

A year ago I had, though I didn't know it for sure yet, cancer. Not a nasty sort of cancer, not an invasive sort, but cancer. Amanda The Amazing had found it during my routine tooth cleaning and had looked very solemn about it. So had the dentist, and the receptionist, and everybody else.

I remember feeling as though I'd been walking along on a treadmill that had suddenly sped up. I was barely keeping up, keeping my feet under me, as other people made phone calls and tried to find an oral surgeon that would accept an emergency appointment within a few days.

The next few weeks were like that all the time. I went from one oral surgeon to another to an ENT to CT and MRI and PET scans and had a lymph node biopsy (just thinking about it makes the right side of my neck hurt again) without really being aware of what was going on. I remember eating lunch with Nurse Ames, high on Valium, after the PET scan. I remember Abilene Rob coming to town the day that the biopsy came back positive, and trying to eat dinner with him. I watched him clean his plate--you have never met anybody who can eat like Rob can--while still feeling like I was in a film that had been speeded-up.

I remember it was the most beautiful fall I'd seen in years.

Today is a beautiful day, too. The quality of the light's the same, and the trees--those of them that are still green--are up against a perfect blue sky the same way that they were last year. Things have quit burning down to the extent that it's eerily familiar outside.

Max is still here. Pens and my Beloved Sister and Parents are still here, Rob is still here, my Brother In Beer is still here. The cats are still here. I yelled at Notamus today for stabbing me with one of his claws, a thing he knows he's not supposed to do, then felt bad for yelling at him, then felt incredibly grateful that things are normal enough that I can yell at him.

Part of my mouth is gone forever. It got cut out with a bone saw and ended up on a pathologist's counter, cut into frozen sections and analyzed. Somewhere at Dr. Elf's there's a mold of what used to be in my mouth, including a dent that marks the mirror image of where the tumor used to be. ("That's the tumor," he said, showing me the hollow on the alginate mold.)

I have three new friends, all "cancer buddies"--Lara, whose general pissed-offed-ness at the whole Cancer Mess made it okay for me to be pissed off too; Tashi, who provided comfort and love and concern even in the middle of her own hell; and Nikki, who didn't come along until after everything was over, but who provides some of the best on-going one-liners ever.

I have a lot more patience than I used to. I have a better understanding of what it means to be on the other side of my job--how little you remember from moment to moment when you're terrified, how huge even simple things seem, how hard it can be to get the hell out of bed. I missed a lot of work between diagnosis and surgery because, most days, it was just too damn hard to get out of bed.

Now, if something is going to hurt, I can tell my patients that honestly. I can also recommend Dilaudid wholeheartedly and without reservation. I know firsthand where to put an IV, how it feels to get up the first time after surgery, and what "tired" really means. I never want to see pureed anything ever again.

I have a lot of debts I can never pay. Lola and T-Bird, Carolita and James, Nick and Aud, Nurse Ames and Stoya and The Manhandler--all the nurses who took care of me inside the hospital and out--I want to buy them all dinner every night for a year. Beloved Sister made me a communication board because we didn't know if I'd be able to talk after surgery, and some of the magnets from it are still on my fridge, because they're hilarious. My folks were about as non-strange as it's possible for parents to be in that situation. My Uncle Jon came down and played housewife for a week, making it possible for me to go back to work. The Man of God and His Lovely Wife fed me, Beth and Matt buzzed my hair. . .I'd have to start a whole new blog just to say thanks.

And you guys: When I needed information, you sent me loads. When I doubled back and asked you please not to any more, you sent pictures of kittens instead. I got prayers and outpourings of love and good, solid ass-kicks when it was appropriate.

Some things have changed. Some things haven't. Some things changed for a while, then went back to the way they'd always been. It's been--and it seems weird to say this--a good year.

14 comments:

scotvixen said...

*hugs*

Here's to many decades more of good ones for ya, dear.

We dine in your honour tonight then, happy cancerversary.

You are made of awesome and no CANSUH can take that.

Anonymous said...

A good albeit certainly crazy year. Here is to many more with less crazy but more awesome friends and family.

Cr0w$C@lling said...

Damn. It seems so much longer than a year but so much shorter too.
-trabes

Rosanna said...

Back when I almost felt unworthy/intimidated to leave a comment on your----(as Scrubsmag.com says, "wildly popular")----Blog, I still will *NEVER* FORGET reading your entry of Wednesday, October 20, 2010, 11:18 AM:

"Very tired, but okay. And on serious pain meds. But all is well, and I will be fine."

'Honestly can't tell you how surprised/impressed I was that you so considerately and thoughtfully gave a Condition Report to all of us (out here in cyberspace) about YOURSELF............ i.e., RIGHT AFTER you had surgery for oral *cancer*!!

But maybe I wasn't, (i.e., not really), THAT surprised, Jo, because............ "You ARE 'Nurse'," you know.

'No tellin' how many people............ (including all of us out here in cyberspace, because you write so well that we almost feel *as if* we've been-through-it WITH you)............ are simply glad that you're here, and ABLE TO have a *good year*!!

messymimi said...

Glad you've made it, and hope to be glad with you for many, many more.

IMQTPI said...

I just recommended you blog to a friend of mine who - after a scary dentist visit - is now in the same shoes you were in, exactly one year ago.

In fact, I had to read-back through an entire year's worth of your blog to find the first post and fwd it to her...

She's not a big Internet Person, but I hope she can find some "hope" from your blog...

I am so glad you're here - and that you've shared so much with all of us. Thank you!

bobbie said...

{{{{{{JO}}}}}}

Dee Ambrose said...

This made me cry. I'm so happy you're okay now.
xx

AM said...

We are deeply and profoundly happy that you are doing so well.

terri c said...

You're da bomb, Jo, and your honesty on this blog is a gift I'll value for always. Many more good years to you!

Abilene Rob said...

It has been a helluva year, but you got through it with style. Kudos.

inkgrrl said...

All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.

I am so incredibly fucking glad it's been a year. I won't say "already" as this past year has been jam-packed full o'fun, but wow. A year? Awesome!

My 44 yr old brother died almost six weeks ago of CANSUH. Already been almost six weeks, already. Fuck cancer.

I raise a glass to you lady, and toast you for long and merry life.

Chef Green said...

I remember you before the cancer-your wit and candor. I remember the stomach-falling fear I felt when you posted about your illness for the first time. I remember your bravery, your vulnerability and your persistence in documenting your condition.

I salute and admire you. I am so, so thankful that you have made such a recovery-that your mind is relatively unscathed, that you still find joy in life. May the blessings be, and be, and be.

Lioness said...

A year already, amazing... I missed your cancer for the longest time but you're part of my little online world already and it's a Very Good Thing to have you around. 'Unscathed' is the word that popped into my mind as well, as much as one can be, I suppose. You are no longer in danger, you can still talk, you have an amazing support net and you certainly carry on being your fab self. Our New Year is around the corner and even though you're not Jewish it seems fitting. Good beginnings and better continuations always are. Leave some wine for the Californians!